David Mamet Weaves This Web
THE SPANISH PRISONER (1997/DVD) The Spanish Prisoner is a wonderful pseudo-Hitchcock-ian light thriller worthy of any weekend—or week night for that matter. David Mamet wrote and directed the film, which presents a labyrinth of twists and turns, suckering in both his main character and you, the viewer, along the way. Like all good Hitchcock films, almost nothing is what it seems. The cast is truly interesting: Campbell Scott in the lead as Joe Ross, the “everyman” of the story; Rebecca Pidgeon as Joe’s loyal and true-blue assistant Susan Ricci; Steve Martin as the super suave and obviously rich Jimmy Dell; Ben Gazarra as Joe’s boss; and Ricky Jay as Joe’s friend, truth-speaker and company lawyer, George Lang. As the story opens, Joe is about to become rich, thanks to an invention which, true to form, is never described or revealed, but is kept in a red notebook, locked away with only Joe wearing the “key” to it around his neck. Early in the film, Joe, his boss and the lawyer are off to a “meeting” on an island in the Caribbean to theoretically sell his secret. While there, Joe runs into Jimmy and the story begins to run. Campbell is great in the Cary Grant/North by Northwest role and I personally have always liked Rebecca Pidgeon—she looks so earnest, it’s creepy.
Grade: B. Not a true Hitchcock, but pretty darn slick. Maybe a little too slick for its own good, actually, especially toward the end. But hey! Fun nonetheless.
BTW: The title is a nod to an actual confidence game which according to Wikipedia dates to the late 19th century.
P.S. For Steve Martin fans only: Be sure to enjoy this link: “You’ll be a Dentist.”